This particular piece of barbarism, according to informed observers in Russia, happened as part of a strategy to terrorise the Chechens and end the war before 9 May, when President Boris Yeltsin will welcome Western leaders - Clinton, Major and Kohl among them - to VE Day anniversary celebrations in Moscow. In the words of Russia's prominent human rights activist Sergei Kovalyov, the President would like to be able to open his hands and say: "Yes, all kinds of things happened in Chechnya. We deeply regret this, but don't you see the war is over."
The irony is appalling: so that the 50th anniversary of the end of one war can be celebrated without political inconvenience, a current war must be made bloodier. During the old Cold War days, the widening of human rights in the Soviet Union was always part of the arms talks. Today Russia is almost exclusively evaluated by Western leaders in terms of its economic progress towards the free market. What happens to the people there - the person of President Yeltsin apart - no longer seems to matter, though it should.Reuse content